Defence Research and Development Organisation ( DRDO) is developing the “most powerful conventional explosive”, CL-20, for the armed forces. The explosive will substantially reduce the weight and size of a warhead while packing in more punch.
Scientists at Pune-based High Energy Materials Research Laboratory (HEMRL) have already synthesized adequate quantities of CL-20. “It is the most powerful non-nuclear explosive yet known to man,” AK Sikder, joint director, HEMRL, said.
Most armed forces in the world use research developed explosive (RDX), but it is not the standard explosive used by Indian forces. Indian warheads are mostly stuffed with HMX, FOX-7 or amorphous Boron.
Indian CL-20 or ICL-20, which was synthesized indigenously using the inverse technology, has elevated India to an elite club of countries with advanced capabilities in the field of energetic materials, the ministry of defence said in a release on Tuesday.
CL-20, named after the China Lake facility of the naval air weapons station in California, US, was first synthesised by Arnold Nielson in 1987. CL-20, or octa-nitro-cubane, is a nitramine class explosive 15 times powerful than HMX (his/her majesty explosive or high melting explosive) or octogen. It is more than four times potent than royal demolition explosive or cyclonite or hexogen, commonly known as RDX.
CL-20 will significantly improve penetration and could be used in bombs for the 120-mm main gun mounted on indigenous main battle tank Arjun.
Sikder said while the manufacturing cost of RDX was Rs750/kg and that of HMX about Rs6,000/kg, a kg of CL-20 would cost a whopping Rs70,000 to make. The explosive looks like limestone or grainy talcum powder and has the advantage of reduced sensitivity, which would enable easy handling and transportation.
For the project, HEMRL is tying up with Premier Explosives Limited, which has its factory at Peddakandukur in Nalgonda district of Andhra Pradesh.